Sunday, March 07, 2021

Guest Post - "Overcoming Death: By Turd Flinging Monkey"

Turd Flinging Monkey, or "TFM," has been around the interwebz for at least a decade.  I thoroughly enjoy his podcast, even though I disagree with some of the key philosophical tenets of his podcast.  Nobody knows precisely what he does for a living, but he is ex military, served in Iraq, was abandoned by his mother, and after have a string of bad experienced with women, has taken the rare course of action to have a "sex doll" replace women in his life.  This background, combined with his dead-on economic analysis leads me to believe he is a real economist, though that is speculation.  

Regardless, TFM wanted to write a guest post which I said I'd gladly post because he is a great philosopher.  Below is the article "Overcoming Death" which I found interesting and undeniably true.  I will link to his philosophy book "The Way of Monkey Book" below, but it is a very good meditational book you may want to consider purchasing it.

Overcoming the Fear of Death by TFM

The fear of death comes from the fear of the loss of self. We understand that our bodies are not only finite but that they require constant regeneration. Our bodies are always in a state of perpetual decay and entropy. We must consume other life-forms, be they plant or animal, to keep our mortal vessel going as long as possible. However, no amount of physical fitness or nutrition will make us immortal, and one-day mortality will catch up with us, and our bodies will give out once and for all.

Upon that moment, when our heart stops beating, our brain activity ceases, and we slip into death, we have a gnawing fear that we will cease to be, and that acknowledging the finite nature of our being, robs life of its purpose. “If we simply die and cease to exist, why bother?” is a common attitude, and to beat-back nihilism, we have invented elaborate theories regarding an afterlife. However, these theories of an afterlife must always be taken on blind faith, for nobody has ever returned from death to tell us about what comes after.

Yes, some people have had “near-death experiences” where they saw a light or had some form of experience when their heart stopped briefly, but these experiences are self-canceling because these events correspond to the person’s cultural traditions, which are internally contradictory when taken as a whole, not to mention that these are easily explained as hallucinations caused by the brain losing oxygen after the heart stops beating. When someone is being choked, their vision turns white as their brain loses oxygen (like seeing an intense light), and oxygen deprivation can lead to hallucinations as well as feelings of intense bliss. An extreme and irreverent example of this is those who practice auto-erotic asphyxiation, wherein practitioners combine oxygen deprivation and masturbation.

If you believe in some form of an afterlife, and that gives you peace and stills your fear of death, I shall not rob you of that. I’m speaking to those who find such spotty evidence unconvincing and look upon their inevitable deaths with anxiety. Allow me to still your fears and convince you of what I believe to be good news.

“You” don’t exist.

But of course, You DO exist. You think! You think, therefore You are, as the philosopher said. But what are “You”? You cannot be your body, because your body is finite and mortal, so what are You? Where is the “soul” inside this biomechanical meat-suit we call the mortal body?

Many will immediately answer that the consciousness is the “You”. Consciousness is the “soul”. Consciousness is the “true self” that exists independent from and beyond the physical body. However, I want to ask you what being a disembodied consciousness would mean. Putting aside the entire issue of whether consciousness can exist by itself outside of a physical brain, let’s just assume that our consciousness is indeed our immortal soul, and put aside everything else, and consider what a disembodied immortal consciousness would even be.

For example, you would not be able to sense anything going on in the universe. Our bodies are the bridge between our consciousness and the universe around us. Without eyes to see, ears to hear, skin to feel, mouths to taste, and noses to smell, these senses as well as the universe which interacts with us through them, would be quite unknowable to our consciousness. It would be similar to the proverbial sound of one-hand clapping, or a tree falling in the woods with nobody around to hear it. Without our bodies and thus our sensory faculties, our consciousness would be wholly ignorant of anything going on outside of itself. Neither a paradise nor an inferno would make any difference to a disembodied consciousness. Even if one were reunited with the lost souls of their departed loved ones, they would have no ability to know they were there or to communicate with them. They would be as it were, like two people laying next to one another in separate comas. They would furthermore have no ability to communicate with one another even if they somehow were made aware of the outside universe.

An additional issue with the concept of the disembodied eternal consciousness is the fact that our memories are tied to our physical bodies. This can be readily seen with dementia and Alzheimer's patients who lose their memories as their brains degenerate with age. If our memories were part of our eternal consciousness, brain damage would not cause memory loss. A clever workaround to these issues is the belief that our consciousnesses are given new “spiritual bodies” upon death, which is why ghost stories contain human-like figures who roughly resemble their mortal appearance. However, while the concept of a spirit or ghost “body” seems to solve the problem of the disembodied consciousness, it just repackages the same problem and returns you to the beginning.

If you have a “spirit body” within your physical body that is capable of sensory input and memory, then what was the point of life to begin with? If we have spirit bodies capable of everything our physical bodies are capable of, then there is absolutely no point to life whatsoever. Ironically, many religions such as the early Christian Gnostics came to this conclusion and proclaimed that material existence was evil. This belief was also held by a Christian sect in the 1800s known as the Shakers, who abstained from sex, marriage, and childbirth because they believed that sex and physical existence were impure (they didn’t last very long for obvious reasons). However, even in today’s secular society, antinatalism is very popular and widespread, often with refrains to avoid children for environmental reasons rather than spiritual ones.

When you think about it, the concept of a spiritual body doesn’t make sense and doesn’t solve any of the problems I outlined above anyway. So where does that leave us? Merely accepting that once we die, we cease to be forever and that life has no point? That isn’t my intent, but before we talk about what I believe is the answer, it is important to talk about what isn’t. However, now that we’ve swept the trash aside as it were, we can now clearly see the path before us.

The plain truth is that there is no You, and You are better understood to be part of an interconnected system of life and consciousness that is in a constant state of change. Life and Death are merely part of one another and go together. Likewise, your sense of self, your “You” does not exist without everything else that isn’t You. There is no You, there is only Everything.

I know that was probably confusing and I can feel your eyes rolling through time and space as I’m writing this, but allow me to explain by starting with things that we can verifiably prove beyond the shadow of a doubt and then make highly educated inferences into that which we can only vaguely perceive.

Science estimates that there are about 30 trillion living cells within your body right now. Of those, most of them (about 25 trillion) are blood cells, with the other 5 trillion making up your tissues and organs. However, there are about three times more microbes (bacteria cells) living in your body than you even have human cells. These microbes not only affect your susceptibility to disease and general health, but also affect your mood, food cravings, and may even affect your personality. There are 500 million neurons (brain cells) in your gut, meaning that even if you believe your consciousness resides in your brain that that relationship isn’t restricted only to the area behind your eyes and between your ears.

Why is this significant? It’s significant because You are not a singular organism, but a biosystem of 10s of trillions of living things, most of which aren’t even human cells. A way to understand this easier is to consider the  Portuguese man-of-war, which is not a jellyfish (although it looks like one) but is instead a colony of organisms working together called a siphonophore. These jellyfish-like colony organisms are much more primitive and evolutionarily distant than human beings, but the point I’m trying to help you understand that there is no singular You, and there never was. You were always a complex array of living things, similar to the siphonophores.

“So what?” I hear you saying (again through time and space). To answer this, let us return to the paradox of consciousness and I will prove to you that your entire sense of self, of individual identity, is wholly dependent on the social biosphere of everyone else and everything else around you.

Imagine being the only thing in existence. You are floating within an endless void. You have no sensory experiences because there is nothing else to interact with. There is no light to bounce off of things and carry information into your eyes. There are no vibrations to carry sound into your ears or to vibrate the nerves in your skin to produce touch.  There is no space because there is nothing to compare yourself to. You could be motionless or you could be traveling at the speed of light, but with nothing to compare your current position to, space does not exist, and without space, there is no time. There is nothing … nothing … forever.

Who are you?

What are you thinking about?

Are you alive?

The answers to these questions demonstrate the profound truth that I disclosed earlier. There is no You. There is only Everything. It is only via our relationships with everything else that we are even capable of having a sense of self, a sense of identity. Our environment and our social connections with other people are the microbiomes that we exist in just as the 10s of trillions of living cells exist within our microbiome within our bodies.We are uniquely situated in the middle of all things that we can observe and appreciate this fact, and we can take serene comfort in understanding that as a part of everything, our illusory identity is no more significant than the food you ate.

Think of all the life you consume to stay alive. Even if you’re a vegan and only eat plants, the plants are still living things. Life requires death, and they go together like opposite sides of a magnet. Likewise self requires others. The organism requires the environment. Nothing does or can exist on its own in a vacuum any more than a valley can exist without mountains.

There is no You, there is only Everything. Call it God. Call it the Tao. Call it Azathoth. You are IT, or rather, you are an expression of IT in the same way that your physical characteristics are an expression of your DNA.

There is also a demonstrable pattern within this biosystem of life and death we call reality, and that is the constant state of change, of materials being used and recycled into new materials.

As we learned in the Lion King, while we eat the antelope, when we die our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass, and so we are all connected in the great circle of life.

Nothing lasts forever, yet nothing is wasted. Death feeds back into Life. Being is born from Non-Being. Death is merely changing, and change already happens every day. You’re not the same person you were 10 years ago, and you won’t be the same person in 10 years. One day the pattern known as You will dissolve and new patterns will emerge, and they will not be the same either.

There is nothing to fear because there is nothing to cling to.

Did you like this essay? Check out my book “The Way of Monkey Book” available on Amazon.


Anonymous said...

It must be very terrible to die childless.

Unknown said...

This is a rather ovewhelming piece from the author. I was amazed.

Got the book .... love it.

Looking in to the podcasts.

Thank you Captain for the introduction

Peter Meurrens said...

Wonderfully written - keep coming back to read it again and again

Bought his book - love it.

Subscribed to his podcast - very different

Thanks Cappy for iintroducing this

Jdc732 said...

Interesting series of arguments but, they fall apart in a number of places. Firstly, the contention that there is no "you" outside of an embodied reality because all knowledge is rooted in sense experience is false. If that were true, how would the author explain a priori knowledge, such as in the field of mathematics? Clearly we can know that 1+1=2 independently from our sense experience, through abstract reasoning alone. Do our senses help our understanding of such matters? Sure, but, they are not necessary to our apprehension of abstract truths such as can be found in mathematics or logic.

Second, the argument about how there is no individuation because we are made up of systems of things (cells, molecules, atoms, etc) is also absurd. It's like saying an Egyptian pyramid is an illusion because it is made of gigantic bricks molded into a distinct triangular pattern. Sure you can reduce the pyramid into its constituent bricks, and the bricks into their constituent ingredients (sand, mud, straw) but this reductio ad absurdam in no way detracts from the existence of the single pyramid. Yes, relationships between living and non-living things are imperative to our physical existence in this world but, it isn't therefore the case that individuation does not exist. In other words, if there are such things as relationships and systems, there must be singularities and individuals to form those relationships an systems.